Industry experts speak to H&V News about the most relevant highlights for them in yesterday’s Autumn Statement.
For the Construction Products Association (CPA), the most relevant highlight concerned the new Apprenticeship Levy, the government’s plans for affordable housing and the confirmed support for industrial strategies throughout this Parliament.
CPA chief executive Dr Diana Montgomery said: “Some in our industry will be pleased to hear the Chancellor clarify its ambitions for the Apprenticeship Levy. We learned that it will be paid on payrolls in excess of £3m. The Chancellor suggests that this means less than 2% of UK employers will pay it; however, we estimate the Levy may affect manufacturers with as few as 100 employees.”
CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said that with the levy set at 0.5%, even those businesses most committed to training and development won’t be able to recoup their outlay, and it looks like an additional payroll tax.
ECA CEO Steve Bratt said the ECA will be closely studying the detail of the apprenticeship funding plans, to ensure they have the intended effect of boosting apprenticeships in the sector.
The government’s plans for housing now include a total of 400,000 new ‘affordable’ homes by 2020, with support for Starter Homes and shared ownership schemes.
AECOM director John Hicks said: “Given the urgent need to house the UK’s current and future workforce, we welcome the initiative to build 400,000 affordable homes and the Chancellor’s response to the difficulties faced by the shared ownership sector following the changes to Right to Buy.”
EUA chief executive Mike Foster said “Additional homes would be very welcome, indeed it is one of our ‘asks’ within the EUA manifesto. However I would want a commitment made to building new homes that have the highest levels of efficiency, so as to that avoid costly future retrofits. We want any homes built to enable renewable technology to be installed whether that installation is immediate or in the future.”
BSRIA chief executive Julia Evans said the announcement could lead to thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships being created in the sector but the industry must ensure that industry can indeed find the much-needed qualified and experienced construction employees to meet this demand. “We must not let a labour shortage in this field impede progress,” Ms Evans added.
BEAMA deputy CEO Kelly Butler said it is hard to see how a £700m reduction in Renewable Heat Incentive funding against a projected increase and extension to 2021 can be seen as anything other than an unclear message.
Mr Butler added: “The scheme has been dominated by biomass take up since its launch proper last year and demonstrates that DECC got the incentive and overall scheme design catastrophically wrong for solar and heat pump technologies.”
Mr Butler said DECC needs to understand it is heaping extra cost burden on industry through MCS.
Reacting to minimal announcements of relevance to solar PV, the Solar Trade Association has expressed disappointment at DECC’s core budget being reduced by 22% by 2019-20, and the possibility of 200 staff being made redundant.
Solar Trade Association CEO Paul Barwell said energy policy is a highly technical and complex policy area where in-depth analysis of every sector is needed in order to avoid costly errors. He said cutting this many staff could end up being a false economy for the Chancellor.
NIBE managing director Phil Hurley however said the outcome of the review is positive for the heat pump industry, hailing it as an opportunity to ignite future market growth.
Mr Hurley said the spending review has made it clear that the RHI will continue for the remainder of this parliament, and secondly, that the budget for it will be a significant £1.15bn: “For installers, it provides the necessary ammunition to continue communicating the benefits of the technologies to their customers. For consumers, it reinforces the message that renewables are here to stay and that now is the right time to invest. And for manufacturers and other industry stakeholders, it presents a fresh opportunity to work alongside policymakers to ensure that heat pumps and other renewable heating solutions remain an integral part of the UK’s future energy mix.”
As part of future reforms, NIBE said they would like to see the MCS process simplified and made more cost-effective.
CIOB policy officer David Hawkes commented: “With the £120bn commitment that has been announced for supporting infrastructure projects, the Government appears to have warmed to the importance of capital spending, which underpins both growth and productivity.
“However, we need to see a longer-term demand model to support even greater investment, from both the UK and abroad, going forward.”